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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Review: Newseum in Washington D.C.

This is part of a series on Washington D.C. with kids. Most of the attractions in Washington D.C. are free, even if they’re not part of the Smithsonian complex. That said, here’s one museum that’s worth the money you pay.

Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Newseum turned out to be my daughter’s favorite museum on our trip, and I loved it as well. In fact, after spending 2.5 hours at it one day, we went back the next day to catch what we missed (the tickets allow a 2 day consecutive entry at no extra cost).


The "Be the Reporter" was a hit with everyone. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Be a Reporter: Reading your news, weather or sports story into the camera (your choice of backdrop). For $5, you get a (cheap) photo of you on TV, and instructions on accessing the video online. (If I'm able to permanently download it, I'll post the link here. For now, I can only figure out how to access it for 30 days). The kids had a great time doing this, and Dori loved that her blue shirt was the same color as the screen, and her shirt essentially disappeared on camera.

Dori's shirt was invisible from the "blue screen" during her reporting. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
The Elevator – not kidding! The huge, glass express elevator takes you from the concourse (basement) to the 6th floor, giving you museum information along the way. We rode it several times. Because we could.

The great glass elevator - which can probably hold 50 people. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Front Pages Gallery – see that day’s newspaper front pages from around the world (outside and also on the 5th floor).

There are 2 walls of newspapers from around the world, changing daily. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Capitol View – great photo ops on the 6th floor with the capitol in the background. Holiday photo!

Holiday photo! Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
4-D Movie – a 15 minute movie with 3-D effects on screen, along with moving chairs, air and other elements. Though they warn you about motion sickness, it was actually fine. The movie (I-Witness) told the story of three reporters through the ages. The kids really liked it. Lots of other movies throughout Newseum, including favorites like one on the role of the presidential photographer and one on your guaranteed rights (like freedom of the press, freedom of assembly...)

A broadcasting tower from the top of one of the World Trade Center buildings, and a wall of newspaper front pages from after the attack. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
9/11 Gallery – skip this if your kids aren’t aware of 9/11. They have one of the broadcasting towers from the Twin Towers on display, along with a wall of newspapers from around the world from the day after the attack.

The Unabomber's actual cabin where he lived for 20 years. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
G-Men and Journalists Exhibit – this special exhibit was fascinating, showing the media’s role in federal law enforcement cases like the Unabomber, the Lindburgh baby kidnapping, 9/11 attacks, Waco, and others. Most interesting are the artifacts, like the Unabomber’s actual cabin that he lived in for 20 years (see above), Richard Reid’s shoe bomb (see below - plus you'll see the matches he used, the tranquilizers used to sedate him after, and his passport), an original final instruction letter to one of the 9/11 hijackers, and engine parts from a plane that hit the Twin Towers. Most chilling was a group of dust-covered cell phones pulled from the rubble, which rescue workers heard ringing for days following the attack. (As for the shoe bomb, we could more easily explain to the kids that this is why we have to remove our shoes when going through security).

Richard Reid's actual shoe in the attempted 2001 infamous airplane shoe bombing. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Interactive Computers – most exhibits had interactive computers that allowed you to learn more about the news. The kids loved it. In the Be the Reporter area, you could play interactive games on how to report the news or take photos at a river rescue and pick the right photos for the story. There was an ethics game nearby, where you could be tested on ethical news reporting issues. (You'll be pleased to know I beat everyone in my family)

Interactive computers and videos are everywhere, making it more interesting for the kids. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Berlin Wall - see the largest section of Berlin Wall outside of Berlin, plus a guard tower in this exhibit which discusses freedom of speech (and other freedoms) during the times of Berlin's division post World War II.

A large section of the Berlin wall. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Pulitzer Prize Photos – the Newseum has walls of the Pulitzer Prize winning news photos over the years. Make sure your kids are mature enough to see them – many are horrific. If you have time to watch the videos interviewing the photographers, they’re interesting, explaining how they captured the shot and the stories behind them. This area was a bit much for my kids.

OJ Simpson's coat and tie from trial. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Momentoes: See one of the jacket and ties that OJ Simpson wore during his trial. See the box that Judge Ito used to stop the cameras for showing certain details of the trial. There are a lot of other artifacts sprinkled throughout the museum.

Tiles with newspaper blooper headlines in the bathroom. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
The Bathrooms – again, Not Kidding! The bathrooms contain newspaper headline bloopers collected by the Columbia Journalism Review.

The interior of Newseum. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Details: Tickets cost $22/adults, $13 for kids 7-18 (free for kids 6 and under). Get a family pass (2 adults, 2 kids) for $50 at the front desk. You can get advanced tickets and save 10% online (but you can't get the family pass online). Free coat check. There’s a café inside, with kid-friendly (and adult-friendly) options including salad bar and desserts. Next door is the Source, a Wolfgang Puck restaurant. They make a big deal about the food court food being from his catering arm, but I didn’t think the food court food was “Wolfgang Puck” special. It was just fine. Note that when they search your bags at museum entry, they’ll let you know you can’t eat all that food in your backpack while you’re there.

Planning: If you don’t have much time, use this 2 hour highlights guide. Here’s a virtual tour of Newseum.  Their suggestion of the top 10 things to see:

All images are copyrighted to Deborah Abrams Kaplan. No reproduction allowed without written permission.

We received press tickets to Newseum, but all opinions are my own.
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